Baseball: Wildcats one win away from county title
“WELCOME TO THE SWAMP.”
So reads the greeting on the scoreboard that sits beyond center field at Sayville High School’s nice looking field.
The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats made themselves right at home on Monday. Undaunted by the fact that they were playing the top-seeded team in the Suffolk County Class A Tournament, the No. 2 Wildcats rode Ryan McAlary’s two-hit pitching and a potent offense to a 12-1 rout of the Sayville Golden Flashes, pulling to within one win of a county championship. Seven Wildcats had at least one run batted in and eight had at least one hit.
Shoreham, seeking its first county title since 2002, could achieve that Thursday with a win against Sayville, the Elwood/John Glenn Knights or the Mount Sinai Mustangs. Since it is unbeaten in the double-elimination tournament, Shoreham (18-5) would get another shot at the county crown even if it loses Thursday’s game.
“It feels great,” Shoreham second baseman Andrew Nicchi said. “It’s a long road, and we’ve been playing great the whole season.”
Monday was no exception.
Sayville (20-3), sporting jerseys that looked like military camouflage wear (appropriate for Memorial Day), had its hands full. All three of its losses this season have come to Shoreham.
Once again, Shoreham showed how complete a team it is, formidable offense and all. With the left-field fence only 325 feet away from home plate, it makes an inviting target for batters. For a team like Shoreham that has a .370 batting average and 28 home runs, it can be a tempting place.
“We’re a good offensive team,” Shoreham Coach Sal Mignano said. “Our lineup in this day and age is very long, and we can hurt a lot of people offensively.”
Shoreham produced 15 hits, three of them home runs. Nicchi, Dan Sperruzzi and McAlary all knocked balls out of the park for Shoreham. It was Nicchi’s fifth home run of the year, Sperruzzi’s sixth and McAlary’s fourth. McAlary went 3 for 3 with a walk, was hit by a pitch and scored three runs. Nicchi had three RBIs.
“Coming out here, we knew we had to play our best,” Nicchi said. If we didn’t play our best, it would be a tough game. They’re a great team.”
Michael Hewson struck his 11th homer of the year for Sayville, which took its first loss in the tournament.
McAlary (4-2), the No. 3 starter in Shoreham’s pitching rotation, did the job on the mound. The senior right-hander struck out five, walked one and hit three batters. For the most part, his control was good. He threw 65 strikes against 40 balls. Aside from Hewson’s first-inning homer, the only other hit that McAlary allowed was a single that Mike Rahn placed past third baseman Mike O’Reilly in the third.
“I knew coming into this game that they have a great hitting team,” McAlary said, “so I just had to keep the ball low and have all the control with my pitches.”
Shoreham opened the game with three runs, all from home runs, in the first. McAlary, the game’s first batter, was hit by a pitch from Ryan Aloise (4-1). Nicchi then drilled a 3-2 pitch for a homer over left-center field. Two batters later, Sperruzzi lined a solo shot into the woods beyond the left-field fence.
“We came out in the beginning of the game, started hitting, and our hitting kept it going the whole game,” said Nicchi.
Shoreham rang up four more runs in the fourth for a 7-1 lead. With the bases loaded, Nicchi produced a sacrifice fly to start the rally. Matt Kneisel and Sperruzzi each singled in a run, and a sacrifice fly by Danny Luppens brought in another run.
Two more Shoreham runs followed in the sixth. Jono Criscito supplied a sacrifice fly and Luppens scored on a throwing error after stealing third base.
The sort of day Shoreham had was exemplified in the seventh when a Kevin Davis grounder that looked like a sure out richocheted off the second-base bag for a hit. The next batter, McAlary, then crushed a pitch deep beyond the center-field fence. Three batters later, O’Reilly tapped a run-scoring single off the left-field fence, making it 12-1.
Hewson agreed that Shoreham was on its game, but also lamented the mistakes his team made. He also sounded a defiant note, saying: “We are going to come [here] on Wednesday. We are going to beat the winner of John Glenn-Mount Sinai. We are going to beat Shoreham, and we will be Suffolk County champions.”
It is possible that a Shoreham-Sayville rematch will be played Thursday in Sayville. But the Wildcats are close to a title, and they know it.
Said McAlary, “We just win one more game and we got ourselves a county championship.”